State and federal officials have launched an investigation into the cause of a plane crash at the Gainesville Municipal Airport that left two people dead.


Texas Department of Public Safety Staff Sgt. Mark Tackett said the crash was reported shortly before 4:30 p.m. Sunday and occurred near the northern end of one of the airport’s runways. The two victims have been identified as flight student Yu Qiu, 22, of China and flight instructor Francesca Norris, 25, of North Richland Hills.


Both were members of Denton-based U.S. Aviation Academy.


“All of our hearts are heavy as we collectively mourn our student and instructor,” U.S. Aviation said in a Facebook post published late Sunday. “Our thoughts are with their families, friends and loved ones. The safety of our students and instructors remains at the cornerstone of our training program and, with that in mind, we are assisting with the National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration and local authorities as they investigate the accident.”


Tackett said Qiu was pronounced dead at the scene. Norris sustained critical injuries in the crash and was transported to Parkland Hospital in Dallas where she later died. No others were on board. U.S. Aviation Academy did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday afternoon.


Flight tracking data collected by website Flight Aware indicated the plane, a double-engine Piper Seneca, had taken off from Denton Enterprise Airport at approximately 2:45 p.m.. The aircraft reportedly traveled north across the Texas-Oklahoma border, before circling back toward Gainesville and dropping off radar, just after 4 p.m..


The crash remains under investigation.


Drew Smith is the crime and emergency reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at asmith@heralddemocrat.com.